Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Teachers have private lives?

It never ceases to amaze me the comments and questions of students. They tend to believe that you were born and reside in the school. Once they find out you have private life the inquisition begins. Every time I have a haircut "You got a haircut? When was that? Where do you go? My cousin cuts hair too!" This week I also got, "Hey mister, you're a vegetarian right? Do you eat animal crackers?" The small bits of comedy are what helps keep me going.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


With all the drama going around lately, it occurred to me that my mind was so far away from where I wanted it to be. Teaching got put on cruise control and took a back seat to insult and injury. There is only so much that the brain can hone in on at once. I tried my hardest to be very deliberate in my thinking and interactions. I needed to refocus my efforts back on teaching and ignore the cesspool of agitation swirling about. Ignore the union meeting, the imposed all day PD, and the "learning walk." I purposely ignored and avoided other teachers all week, didn't talk about school with coworkers, and hunkered down in my bunker. I needed to remember why I decided to teach.

This week I had some classroom victories. I wrapped up my unit on unionization with my sheltered an honors students. My goal with the sheltered students was to get them to understand the robber baron vs. labor union fight, and how each side tried to get what they wanted. The vocabulary was tough for them, but in the end my Nepali, Congolese, and Latin students got it. Small but important victory.

For my honors students, I prescribed a reading by Howard Zinn from A People's History of the United States. We contrasted Zinn and the textbook, followed up by a 50 minute discussion on the role of public schools. I asked: Created to form the new industrial worker and teach obedience, do schools still pursue the same goal, or do they attempt to create independent thinking citizens? Students were split, with most believing that school is what you make it, or by teacher. Thankfully, they said my class taught them to think and challenge.

The following day the students organized their own chapter of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) using democratic values of that union. Students had to conduct the 1912 strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts and decide on the real life problems that arose during that strike, and resolve them through democratic cooperation and the ideals of the IWW. In the end the students had an unfacilitated discussion about the IWW, how to win, and had to use Eugene Debs' quote to explain the ideals and leadership model of the IWW, versus the corporate leadership model.
Too long have the workers of the world waited for some Moses to lead them out of bondage.He has not come; he never will come. I would not lead you out if i could; for if you could be led out, you could be led back again. I would have you make up your minds that there is nothing that you cannot do for yourselves.
This lesson really boils down to what I do. Create citizens ready to participate in a democratic society; independent thinking, questioning critical thinkers, who challenge misused authority, and lead, don't follow. This was one of many lessons on that topic. American history provides so many opportunities to teach the same message. Teaching this week was awesome, and I look forward to the rest of the year.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Don't feel much like writing. Extremely demoralizing week and year in general. I shall expound later.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Administration #2

Here is what I created. As department chair, these are real conversations I have been in. This is the reality of education from the eyes of administration.


Teachers are always blamed for an educational system that is more often than not created by those around them, administrators, or community. One teacher who is going through exactly the same kind of crap that our school is going through, created this video and put it on YouTube.

Focus walks are one of the school "reforms" that are designed to get teachers to see their coworkers techniques and styles. It is intended to improve instruction. However, the problem is that they are too structured and controlled, and provide little feedback to either party. I have often said that administrators are incompetent and incorrectly apply business models to education. This video portrays their repression and ignorance. This is real, what we actually have to deal with.

This video is about collaborative planning, which is teachers planning units, common formative and summative assessments. Like focus walks, they are too strictly controlled, and in our case, used to divide and criticize. When one teacher's students score well on the assessment, and another teacher's students don't, the data is used as an excuse to criticize, instead of learn and grow. Our building works under the "gotcha" system, and the current climate is one of terrorism from fools.